As Canadians, we are fortunate to have access to vast green spaces, but we can also create our own sustainable garden on our own property. A backyard garden offers numerous benefits, including providing fresh produce, improving air quality, and reducing our carbon footprint. However, creating and maintaining a sustainable garden can be a daunting task.
Sustainable gardening involves using environmentally friendly techniques to grow healthy plants while minimizing the negative impact on the planet. This article will provide tips and tricks to create a sustainable backyard garden that benefits the environment and enhances your outdoor living space.
So, let’s get started on our journey in creating a sustainable backyard garden.
What Is Sustainable Gardening?
Sustainable gardening is all about practicing environmental stewardship and sustainability principles. This involves using methods that reduce environmental impact and promote flourishing gardens that are both healthy and productive. Practices like utilizing organic and natural fertilizers, practicing water conservation, planting indigenous flora, avoiding hazardous pesticides and chemicals, and composting.
The ultimate objective of sustainable gardening is to foster a thriving and harmonious ecosystem that safeguards the Earth’s natural resources for future generations of living beings and plants.
Is Gardening Always Sustainable?
No. Gardening can be sustainable if done in environmentally conscious ways.
Sustainable gardening revolves around resource utilization. A typical garden consumes a significant amount of resources, but sustainable gardening blends organic gardening techniques with resource preservation.
Organic Gardening Practices For A Sustainable Garden
To be a practical gardener, it is essential to be knowledgeable about sustainable gardening practices. Below are 17 beneficial practices that every organic gardener should be aware of and implement in their own garden. By incorporating these practices into your gardening routine, you can create a more sustainable and eco-friendly environment for your plants to thrive.
Opt For Native Plants
To create a garden with benefits beyond your needs, opt for plants that thrive in your region and pose a few problems. It’s wise to integrate native plant species into your landscape, as they’re already well-adapted to the soil conditions and climate of your area and will likely support a diverse range of plant and animal life.
The native plant species provide food and refuge to the local insect and bird populations. Native plants are eco-friendly as they demand less watering and fertilization than most non-native plants, while also aiding pollinators and other wildlife.
Adding Organic Matter For Soil Health
Mulching is an effective method to suppress weeds in your garden and also aids in maintaining soil moisture. This, in turn, enables soil organisms to produce nutrients that are essential for the growth of our crops.
To promote sustainable gardening, it is recommended to apply a thick layer of mulch, approximately 2-3 inches, onto your garden beds and surrounding landscape plants. Various sustainable mulching options include shredded bark, cocoa bean hulls, pine needles, grass clippings, and coir, which are produced from coconut hulls.
In the event that you come across insect pests or plant diseases in your garden, it is recommended that you opt for organic remedies to address the issue.
Adding an appropriate quantity of organic matter to the soil can enhance its capacity to absorb and retain water, allowing the plants to grow healthily. You can also promote water conservation.
It is highly recommended to compost your green waste. Various materials such as dried leaves, deadheaded flowers, and grass clippings can be transformed into an environmentally-friendly and nutrient-rich fertilizer using a compost pile. To avoid the need for collection, it is advisable to use a mulching lawn mower. However, if collection is necessary, the lawn clippings can also be added to the compost pile.
Use fully composted organic matter to establish a fresh garden plot or incorporate it routinely into an existing plant bed
When piles and bins are left exposed, they are susceptible to becoming waterlogged during rainy weather and desiccated in hot climates. Keep the compost pile in a black plastic bin and place it in an area that receives direct sunlight to ensure the continuous composting process during winter.
Attract Beneficial Insects
One effective method of deterring pests while promoting your local ecosystem is inviting insect predators and parasites. You may provide a welcoming habitat for the beneficial insects that may reside in your garden. Encourage the presence of helpful birds and bats by building bird nesting boxes and bat houses. These creatures are natural adversaries of most insects and will assist in keeping them under control.
Another way to control pests is by planting insectary plants that attract pollinators. Or providing shelter for non-flying insects such as beetles and spiders using materials like straw, mulch, or leaves.
Reduce The Lawn Size
Maintaining a beautiful lawn that is lush, green, and free of weeds requires a significant amount of resources. Adequate water and fertilizer are necessary to ensure that lawns remain pristine. The larger the garden and the more plants that require a lot of water, the more resources will be needed to maintain it.
To achieve sustainable landscaping, consider reducing the amount of grassy areas and substituting them with low-maintenance perennial ornamental grasses, groundcovers, or shrubs. This eco-friendly approach will not only benefit your local surroundings but also save you time.
Add some edible planting into the decorative areas with vegetable gardens. Edible plants are visually appealing, like ornamental plants, and provide a great sense of fulfillment. For vegetable garden container ideas, one can go for simple crops like kale and pak choi, while squashes, courgettes, perpetual spinach, chard and runner beans can be grown in the ground.
Growing your own herbs and veggies at home is an enjoyable way to reduce your reliance on plastic-wrapped products from the supermarket. Additionally, homegrown produce tends to contain more nutrients and fewer pesticides. By utilizing vegetable garden trellis ideas, you can optimize the available space.
Water is a precious resource, and the garden is an easy place to conserve it. Plants that are adapted to your climate and soil conditions require less water, so that’s a great place to start.
Conserving water is crucial, and the garden provides ample opportunities. Opting for plants well-suited to your specific climate and soil conditions can significantly reduce water usage, making it an excellent starting point.
Likewise, conserving water while gardening can be achieved by watering your plants in the morning or evening to minimize water loss due to evaporation. Drip irrigation and soaker hoses effectively reduce excess water, while overhead sprinklers are not recommended as they cause water waste through evaporation and runoff.
It is also advisable to avoid watering the leaves unnecessarily as this may contribute to plant disease and instead focus on watering the roots.
Capturing water in a new way can solve the surprising fact that your garden may require up to 20 gallons of water per week. This method could potentially fulfil some or all of your water needs.
Gather rainwater in barrels or cisterns and utilize it for watering your plants. You may also capture the water that flows out of your drainage pipes using bottles. Additionally, rainwater is more beneficial for plants than chemically-treated tap water.
Use Natural Pest Control
Garden pests are often eliminated using synthetic pesticides, especially in large-scale farming, where a single type of insect could cause significant damage to crops in a single season. To adopt sustainable gardening practices, synthetic pesticides should be avoided.
If companion planting is insufficient to address pest problems, natural alternatives such as diatomaceous earth, garlic, eucalyptus oil, cayenne pepper, and citrus oil can be considered. These alternatives are safe for use around individuals and animals, making them a suitable option for gardening.
To deter non-insect pests such as birds and deer from disrupting the soil, netting can be utilized as a more sustainable alternative to chemical sprays and soaps.
Practice Companion Planting
When it comes to plant selection, companion planting is a great strategy to maximize a thriving and diverse garden. Combining certain plants can help attract pollinators, reduce the risk of plant diseases, and keep pest numbers in check.
The following are some successful plant pairings that complement each other:
- Squash and nasturtiums
- Potatoes and thyme
- Tomatoes and basil
- Carrots and onions
- Lettuce and chives
- Spinach and radishes
Future-Proof Your Planting
To future-proof your garden from extreme weather conditions, it’s important to start with the basics. Make sure that the plants you choose are suitable for the type of soil in your garden, whether it’s wet soil or poor gravelly soil.
It is also necessary to improve drainage and soil structure with the addition of grit and mulch. Digging deeply and incorporating organic matter will give the plants a better start. This will not only help the plants establish themselves but also enhance the soil’s overall health.
Upcycle Or Use Free Items
Instead of constantly purchasing new items and discarding old ones, consider upcycling them to promote sustainable gardens.
Utilize old buckets, containers, and even sinks as creative plant pots. Transform sections of a log from a fallen tree into stepping stones. Repurpose wooden spoons as plant markers in your raised beds and old jam jars as charming tea light holders for a cosy atmosphere in your patio area.
You can also repurpose old socks or pantyhose as ties for your garden. Or transform old windows into a useful cold frame.
Recycle Food Waste
Worms can be fed with kitchen waste, such as vegetable peels, fruit rinds, coffee grounds, tea bags, and egg shells, which will gradually turn into an excellent compost that can greatly benefit your garden plants.
Opting for an enclosed tumbler or a covered bin will not only safeguard the contents but also aid in regulating moisture levels.
Although the harvest of our food is often the most exciting part of growing plants, the post-harvest process can be even more advantageous. Saving seeds after harvesting can be particularly beneficial for various types of plants, as it can reduce costs for the next planting season and offer insight into the wonders that each small seed holds.
Additional sustainable gardening methods involving seeds:
- Growing various vegetables and plants by regrowing them from leftover food scraps.
- Propagating new plants using seeds, cuttings, or other parts of existing plants.
Balance Hard & Soft Landscaping
Select a yard layout that harmonizes hard and soft landscaping, with soft landscaping accounting for at least 60 percent of the design. Prioritize self-sustaining soft landscaping that does not necessitate high-maintenance methods such as the overuse of fertilizers.
Equally, select hardscaping materials native to the garden’s environment and represent the local construction heritage. Such organic materials offer ecological benefits, such as reduced transportation and less energy-demanding manufacturing methods.
Use Hand Tools
Reducing your dependence on powered gardening tools can decrease the amount of greenhouse gas emissions generated. When feasible, choose manual tools such as hand-weeders and push mowers. If powered tools are necessary, prefer electric models over those that require gasoline.
Construct A Shelter For Wildlife
A private garden can be a significant sanctuary for wildlife within a larger community that connects urban green areas and rural regions. You can create wildflower borders or meadows if there is enough space.
Building ponds, replacing fences with green borders, and other initiatives indicate an open and hospitable environment for animals to prosper. Constructing an insect sanctuary or providing bird feeders can transform your garden into a living masterpiece by attracting birds, bees, and butterflies.
Why Is Sustainable Gardening Important?
Sustainable gardening practices prioritize environmental protection by preventing damage, flooding, and contamination. By adopting eco-friendly gardening techniques, you can reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, and promote carbon sequestration in the garden soils, aiding in the fight against climate change.
Additionally, sustainable gardening helps save water resources and eliminates the need for harmful chemicals like fertilizers and pesticides.
Enjoying The Fruits Of Your Sustainable Gardening Labor
Creating a sustainable garden is easy when you follow our guidelines. Incorporate eco-friendly practices to protect your local environment while growing a successful garden. Enjoy the rewards of a healthy and vibrant garden and be satisfied knowing you are doing your part to conserve our planet.
Ready to create your own sustainable garden? Start now!